FBI probing Edwards Senate campaign donor

Via Ben Smith at The Politico:

The FBI is investigating five-year-old contributions by the family of a Mississippi trial lawyer to former Democratic Sen. John Edwards.

The investigation into lawyer Paul Minor — part of a long-running and controversial federal case — has come to Washington in recent weeks, where four former fundraising aides to Edwards have spoken voluntarily to FBI agents.

Democrats familiar with the investigation said that neither the current or past Edwards campaigns nor any of his staffers appear to be targets of the investigation, which is trying to determine whether Minor reimbursed his children for $8,000 in contributions to Edwards, an illegal practice known as “conduiting.”

A lawyer for Minor, Abbe Lowell, said he’s aware of a federal investigation into “the issue of conduit contributions to the Edwards campaign in 2001.”

While there is a five-year statute of limitations for the crime, Lowell said an investigation is still open. Though he wouldn’t go into detail, investigation targets who cooperate with prosecutors may agree to extend a statute of limitations.

The Minors’ contributions went to a committee intended to finance Edwards’ 2004 Senate reelection campaign, which he forwent to run for president. But Minor is just one of many prominent trial lawyers who have played a central role in the political career of Edwards, himself one of North Carolina’s most successful plaintiff’s attorneys.

Trial lawyers are a fixture of Democratic politics and fundraising, particularly in the South, but some also have a reputation in Democratic political circles for a freewheeling approach to campaign finance law. Within Edwards’ 2004 campaign, staffers referred to those flamboyant personalities by an acronym: They called them “DFTLs,” which according to former staffers was short for “dirty (expletive) trial lawyers.”

“No current staffer for John Edwards for President uses that kind of language to talk about our donors,” said Kate Bedingfield, campaign spokeswoman.

Heh. But he didn’t mind keeping on staff a couple of potty-mouth bloggers who’ve said much much worse.

Moral of the story? It’s wrong to curse dirty trial lawyers but ok to curse, use vulgarity towards, and blaspheme the Catholic church. Got it. :-?

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